After briefly reviewing the complex development of "the American ideology of technological progress," Segal offers critiques and case studies of historians (Tocqueville and "modernization," Leo Marx's "middle landscape," and students of the Automobile Age and its prospects), of utopian and dystopian technological visions (from Edward Bellamy, Mary E. Bradley Lane, Kurt Vonnegut, and Lewis Mumford), and of the overt and covert attitudes toward technology and culture manifested in technological museums and museum exhibits. In a final section, Segal examines the ironies of the ways contemporary technological optimism, "misusing and abusing as well as ignoring history, promotes high tech's products and its ideology: prophecies, advertising, world's fairs/theme parks, and the technological literacy crusade." A challenging and nuanced examination of the interplay of man and machine in the nation's past, present, and future.
Future Imperfect: The Mixed Blessings of Technology in Americaby Howard P. Segal
The commonly held conception of America as a potential utopia to be brought about technological progress is old and familiar, with many European roots. And it is a conception still shared by many Americans (and non-Americans) despite growing doubts about both America's and technology's future. The critical issue, all told, is how to live sanely and humanely in
The commonly held conception of America as a potential utopia to be brought about technological progress is old and familiar, with many European roots. And it is a conception still shared by many Americans (and non-Americans) despite growing doubts about both America's and technology's future. The critical issue, all told, is how to live sanely and humanely in America's pervasively technological society. That is where serious discussion about America's and technology's future ought to begin. And it is the focus of this book.
University of Massachusetts Press
Comparing the realities with the all too often overly optimistic promises of technological advances can and does leave people confused and disillusioned. However, if one places technological change and technological optimism in its historic context, then both the benefits and the burdens of technology can be more fully understood and appreciated. In a series of essays, Segal (history, Univ. of Maine) provides an insightful interpretation of how technology has helped define and sway American society. Rather than taking either of the contrary and extremist positions that technology will be the ultimate salvation or damnation, these essays attempt to provide a more reasonable view of the uses and limitations of technology. Although uneven at times, the study is thorough and well documented. Drawing on case studies from museum collections, fictional literature, historic studies, and contemporary public policy debates, the author offers useful and insightful examples that may challenge readers to reexamine important issues and beliefs. Moreover, by placing these issues in historic context, Segal provides some substance and relevancy to various controversial and meaningful issues. Recommended for undergraduate and graduate students, as well as general readers.
A collection of illuminating essays on the many ways that technology has affected American Society.... A thoughtful book that should be a 'must read' for anyone interested in how society copes with technology.
A history book with a liberal dose of sociology, philosophy, museum critique, and literature review, [this] is an interesting and scholarly work, repeatedly raising the question of what kind of technological society we want and what has gone before us.... Well written and engaging.
Thoughtful, thought-provoking, and definitely worth reading.
- University of Massachusetts Press
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What People are saying about this
A well-written book by an author who is very knowledgeable in the field. It deals thoughtfully and provocatively with topics whose importance is increasingly recognized. It will be widely used and cited for many years to come.
This is a major contribution to our understanding of the place of technology in American history and historiography.
Meet the Author
Howard P. Segal is professor of history and director of the Technology and Society Project at the University of Maine. He is author of Technological Utopianism in American Culture and, with Alan Marcus, of Technology in America: A Brief History. He is coeditor with Yaron Ezrahi and Everett Mendelsohn of Technology, Pessimism, and Post modernism (University of Massachusetts Press, 1995).
University of Massachusetts Press
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